25 February 2011

Five Ten Blackwing Review

 Review after the first day:
Now, this may sound like a shoe review from a guy who climbs for Five Ten, who has been asked to do such a review. It is in fact not that at all. Simply put, I was never asked to do this review. I am so impressed with this shoe I wanted to share it and give some fit information which is greatly lacking online in the current e-stores. I have only felt this good about a shoe once before in my life and that was the Jet 7.
On Monday I received my new pair of Blackwing from Five Ten which has now very much added to the fire of spring bouldering. Since Five Ten had decided to discontinue the Jet 7 I have been worried about what my next go-to shoe might be. Sizing is always a question when it comes to Five Ten, as I fit a size 8.5 Anasazi, a  size 8 Moccasym, a size 8 in Jet 7, and a size 9.5 in the Team Shoe. I fit a size 10 in the Blackwing on this order. They fit like a glove and are maybe a 1/4 size larger than my old Jet 7. After only a few minutes there is no question what my go-to shoes is. These are probably the best shoe I have ever put on my foot!
The Five Ten Blackwing in all their glory
Five Ten advertises the shoe as a velcro version of the Dragon. It is not. It is much closer to the Jet 7 and would be better described as a more sensitive version of the Dragon with thinner toe rubber and more flexible last. The shoe is far softer than the Team Shoe which was my only complaint of the team shoe. Many people of course prefer the stiffer Team Shoe to scum and hook, but I prefer a soft, down turned shoe with a larger volume arch that I can mush into small features and rock up on solid heels. A shoe that can fit any hold in a roof and still smear on the desperate slab top is what I'm talking about. Part of fitting a shoe that works for me is to not size my shoe as tightly possible by ramming fully bent toes into the toe box. I much prefer the strength of my own foot over the strength of the last of the shoe, and ride a semi-bent toe that can still flex and grab. Maybe an old holdover from my crack climbing days, but the Blackwing flexes just the way I like and strong feet make it even better. If you have a weaker feet and prefer the shoe to do the work and your toes to burn, you can go down a half size and the Blackwing would be perfect. A size 9.5 for instance would still fit me very well in that situation.
One complaint I had from the Team Shoe was that the toe box was too boxy and would not give for precise foot work on granite and often times small feet in slots would not fit. A particular project I have been working on had a very small sloping foot in a deep slot. The toe box of the Team Shoe would push my foot off the hold. My Anasazi were not sensitive enough for the project and I was left with yet another unfinished line. With the new shoes my foot fits the slot and the toe box rubber is stiff enough to mold the slot rather than push my foot off. Very excited about the new shoe to say the least.

 Review after a few days of use:
I just finished fore-running the Friday Night Bouldering Competition problems using the Blackwing shoes. The competition is held at the University of Wyoming climbing gym and tends to be vertical or just past vertical with only a single small bouldering cave. I have always used the Anasazi for the fore-run, but decided to use the new rubber. I climbed 42 problems in them from V0-- to V9/10 or so and am floored at how well these performed. They edge, they smear, they toe and heel hook, and they stick to things that I've never thought of sticking to and do it on every angle of terrain.
It is rare to find an all around shoe for bouldering that is down-turned. This may actually be the only pair of down-turned shoes that I feel completely comfortable putting on for hard slabs. In a roof there is no other choice. I am reminded of a very long roof that has often carried my imagination. The roof is around 35 feet long and all huge sloper rails. With the Blackwing my imagination will become reality in April when I go to lay siege on the roof.
As for the competition problems, I had to re-fore-run many of the advanced in my two year old, totally blown out Anasazi to be sure that the problems were not flukes of good rubber. Some were, and feet were adjusted to accommodate lesser rubber and the average shoe.
Another view of the best shoes in the world
As for fit. The size 10 for me is still very true to the above size info. I can say with complete confidence that a size 9.5 would be a bit tight for my taste.
Overall, a fantastic shoe has been introduced to the market that will for sure bring many people to the next level. If you are looking for a do everything bouldering shoe the Blackwing should be on the short list of possible shoes. Enjoy!

24 February 2011

Whispers of Spring

Winter deep freeze is finally on the way out, I think and hope. It has been a few weeks since the last very cold and each week gets a bit more like spring. Bouldering outside has been pleasant and the snow is quickly loosing the battle to sun and wind. It was a long run through this winter. I don't think we've had the deep cold like that in several winters. Of course we always get a week or two of the far below zero here in Wyoming, but this time you could feel the need the cold had to take any warmth and feeling of life. It wanted to take all hope and leave us frozen with no chance to go outside. I know this because old man winter himself imprinted his eye on the window of my study for four days during the last deep freeze. I knew of course that such determination is always one of desperation and it made me smile to know that the old guy was loosing his grasp. Now the sun carries warmth and the long winter is allowing us to go outside and boulder on real rock. Focus goes back to the leftover projects and rock we found but never had the chance to clean and climb.
The eye of winter staring into my study. A sure sign of old man winter's desperation.
The past weeks have been busy. Many orders came through for Source Holds, which were greatly unexpected and very welcome. Every dollar helps our little bouldering gym pay rent and become a better training ground. Also unexpected was the quick increase of new Source Gym Members the past weeks. People in Laramie are excited for spring and being as strong and fit as possible. Because of the new income and increased membership numbers I have been able to mold new shapes and am in the process of having Source Gym t-shirts printed. The Source Gym shirts will be printed on American Apparel cotton and will be $15 a piece.  I will update on the new shapes and shirts as things become actual products. I've been thinking of adding a separate blog for the Source Gym and related posts so that folks can get direct information on the subject.

Famous Source Crimps getting sorted for shipping to all sides of the country.

A group of us spent the past weekend re-setting all of the walls in the gym which includes many hundreds of holds. The re-set resulted in a stiff wall with many hard problems, but also a wall with better holds for endurance and power endurance. The motivation is now very high and my back has been very sore from too many hours on the poor holds on steep walls.
In other news Bryan Vansickle finally got around to creating the oh so important climbers blog (http://bvansick.blogspot.com/). He has a brief review of the Five Ten Arrowhead as well as some pics of local choss piles in Arizona. I'm hoping he continues his blog and includes his true opinion on things. Bryan is a real character and his blog could easily become the standard. For those of you who know Bryan you know exactly what he is capable of if he lets himself go free. Lets all hope.
I also received an email from friend Brian Capps that included a link to video from the guys I had bouldered with in China. It shows the quality of rock there hopefully encourages some of you to go over there. Motivated by the video and memories I dug up some other videos from Rocker the father of bouldering in China. The first link is the one Mr. Capps had sent me while the second is on Rockers list from vimeo. I would encourage you to watch as many of Rockers videos as possible. Enjoy!
Rocker video of Qingdao Bouldering 1
Rocker video of Qingdao Bouldering 2

Spring of course brings heavy wind here in Wyoming and many of those days have been spent driving back roads in search of good rock. Because of my job at the Wyoming Geological Survey new rock is being found on an almost daily basis. I keep a spread sheet open on my work desktop to add possible climbing areas as I do research for my actual job. A quick input of Lat/Lon and rock type is all that is needed and each weekend a bit of gas to drive and take a look.
Marla and I went out last weekend along a couple hundred miles of dirt in search of some possible sport crags. We found many good crags but access to public land was blocked by private ranches and huge no trespassing signs on all the walls, but one. The one that has public access is fantastic and will include full rope length pitches on very good limestone. Much of the rock is steep and very clean. Laramie can finally have a real sport crag!
For scale the dark steep wall on the right side would be 12 bolts or more in length to the anchors.

01 February 2011

January Sun, February Deep Freeze

This morning was in great contrast of just a few days ago. Waking this morning to -30 F was not the start I was hoping for in February. The high today was a -9 F and little difference could be felt  from the morning cold to the afternoon cold. Just two days ago the weather was 50 F and sunny. That was back in January when we actually bouldered outside on warm rock.
Back on Saturday the hope was for a day of good bouldering on good, warm, sunny rock that was long overdue. All hope was met with fulfillment and a day was made that was so warm I heard a local suggest that spring thaw was starting. Suggesting that spring thaw had begun was true hope or maybe despair. Sunday night the temperatures started to fall. The bottom fell out this early morning and now memories of sun warmed rock keep me going till the next "spring thaw".
Anyway, Saturday morning, eight in the morning (the usual time) Guili Zavaschi, our newest crew member Dylan Stowers and myself loaded the jeep without needing gloves and drove to the local boulders of Gneiss and Granite that we have been developing for a few seasons now. If the description of Gneiss and Granite sounds a bit vague it is because we have all been sworn to secrecy by the areas daddy. This was our first dead of winter trip the particular boulders we visited and it was amazing. Not even climbing that much, but enjoying the sun was what really sank the experience into the body. Staying close to the road we cleaned and tried a few new lines only completing the warm up, now called A Wife For Guili V1.
A Wife For Guili turned out to be a rare classic in terms of a complete line. Though easy, it is tall and proud with a perfect landing. The crux is a high step rock up on a sloping dimple foot to an insecure slimper. Even after a few laps the foot never really felt completely secure. We all smiled huge smiles with the joy of moving on real stone with real earth below our feet.
Guili Zavaschi on the perfect top moves of A Wife For Guili V1., Somewhere, Wyoming.
 After warming up on the new problem we spent a good while figuring out the moves on a short power problem that Guili had found and cleaned. Much effort went into figuring a usable sequence. Then, on the redpoint go from the start, the key foot broke and on further inspection the remaining foot completely snapped off. Another project was born. Dylan too cleaned a nice line, but cooler shade chased us away and into the sun of an area classic. The classic is Bryan Vansickle's Cowboys And Indians V6. Bryan rated the problem V6 and it goes along with his other V5 to V7 problems that rarely get repeated. The problem is a short roof that contains very little in the way of holds. The crux really is the problem. A dynamic stab at a mail slot crimp that is very hard to hit on point is the opening move and the crux. Of course the final moves are not easy and one can fall from from the top moves and people often do after they think it's over. None of us stuck the crux move of the problem, but came very frustratingly close several times. I figured out a lower start to the problem from a pour sloping rail and better feet, but the crux of the original problem kept me from any progress. Guili, Dylan and I thought V7/8 would be a better fit for the grade. I know Bryan is reading this thinking that we are a bunch of sissy imitations of boulderers, but he knows the truth.
Dylan Stowers setting up for the stab at the mail slot crimp on Cowboys And Indians V6 (V7/8)
 As we worked the above problem the local rancher and his wife drove by on four wheelers, herding cattle, and stopped to talk. Wyoming locals are for the most part incredibly nice people and the two we met were no exception. After explaining to them what we were doing (not hunting from mattresses) the rancher suggested a few other locations. He suggested rock that is tucked away on his private property. He also invited us to climb at those locations when we want to. The new potential is massive. Only below zero temperatures, massive snow storms and the rest of Wyoming winter can stop us now. We are very thankful of his offer!
Cows of good fortune
 Guili has been adjusting to life in America after being here for a couple of years now. He is from Brazil and for the most part is very American. When the sun comes out however, it's hard for him to hide the South American side.
Guili looking like he's on a trip to the money fields of Bolivia. In this case the fields are of boulders and he happens to have a monopoly on them